Dereham Town youth stars get a taste of the Orient
Dereham's Under-18s head to Leyton Orient tonight looking to claim their second significant scalp of the season in the FA Youth Cup.
The Magpies youngsters have already seen off Luton Town and tonight they face League One side Orient's youth team at Brisbane Road in the first round proper (7pm).
Head of youth development at Dereham, Tom Parke, believes his side are capable of pulling off another giantkilling – and is even daring to dream of a third round tie against a Premier League club: 'The key to it all is that we're not going there just to take part,' he said. 'These boys are good players and they have got a lot of ambition.
'They want to compete against the best teams, get themselves recognised and raise their profile.
'In the last two rounds we've been drawn against the highest possible level of opponent. There's two ways of looking at that – you can either think you're unlucky, or you can look at it positively and say you want to go out and beat the best teams.
'Our goal is to get to round three. I know this game is going to be very difficult, but it is winnable and if you look at the next round, the winners are away at Tilbury or Stevenage, so again that is not easy, but it is a winnable game. If we reach round three that is when the Premier League teams come in. That would be a dream for this club, but it is only two games away.'
Parke admits his players raised their game to new levels against Luton – and he is asking them to do the same again tonight: 'I'll admit my boys surprised me,' he said. 'Of course I knew how good they were, but it's difficult to gauge until you play teams from a higher level.
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'I knew how much ability is in the side but I thought we might struggle to compete in terms of fitness. There were times against Luton when we had to defend for our lives, but technically we matched up and I think we will against Leyton Orient.
'We've been quite thorough in our preparations and we know they are a very big, strong side, but we will go and try to play our football and take the game to them.'
Captain Elliot Colman has recovered from the glandular fever which ruled him out of the Luton game and is fit enough to be on the bench tonight, while star striker Nathan Howard – who has attracted interest from Norwich City this season – faces a late fitness test on his dead leg.
Parke, 26, who is also head coach at the Personal Best Soccer school, added: 'I don't go into any game thinking we can't win, because if I don't think we can win, how are the players going to believe it?
'We've got a very motivated bunch of players who are hungry to take the club forward and we're very excited about the game.'